The Meaning of It All

The Hugo Awards official website has made a fresh attempt to interpret the meaning of Archive of Our Own’s 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work and how individual participants ought to identify with it. However, the December 18 statement “2019 Hugo Awards Clarification” does not explain what need it’s supposed to meet or why it was issued at this time. In response, a number of fans have filled in the blanks with the worst motives they can conceive.  

The “2019 Hugo Awards Clarification” post says —

We would like to clarify that the winner of the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work is Archive Of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works.

This category of the Hugo Awards is one which recognizes works that are non-fiction or which are notable primarily for aspects other than fiction. Thus, the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work recognizes AO3 as a project and a platform; the fiction hosted on that site is not the award recipient, nor are the authors of fiction hosted on that site the award recipients.

Further, the only officially recognized 2019 Hugo Award Winner for Best Related Work is Archive Of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works. No natural persons can claim to be a Hugo Award Winner, Finalist, or Nominee for this award on behalf of AO3.

Individual works of fiction on AO3 are eligible for the Hugo Awards in the fiction categories of the corresponding length, for the award year in which they are first published. In addition, the Hugo Awards have Fan Writer, Fan Artist, Fanzine, and Fancast categories which recognize contributions that fans give freely to fandom.

Members of AO3 are welcome and encouraged to promote themselves as “participant in the Hugo Award-Winning project Archive Of Our Own” or “contributor to the Hugo Award-Winning AO3 website”.

The Hugo Awards site is created and managed by the Hugo Awards Marketing Subcommittee of the World Science Fiction Society Mark Protection Committee, who are responsible for the statement.

Renay, of this year’s Hugo-winning fanzine Lady Business, characterized the statement as an anonymous attack calculated to discourage AO3 participants from joining CoNZealand and becoming eligible to vote in the 2020 Hugos.

Many dissenting tweets have been appended to The Hugo Awards’ own tweeted link to the statement.

And here is a a sampling of related comments.

Also, Forestofglory, who wrote a post “Why I Like Taking Part in the Hugo Awards” a few weeks ago, tweeted the link again as part of the latest discussion. It begins —

Since Archive of Our Own (AO3) recently won a Hugo, and Lady Business the fanzine I write for also won its second Hugo I wanted to talk a bit about the Hugos and why I like taking part in them. I’ve been nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards for a while now and have had a really positive experience, of the Hugos as a fun communal event where a lot of people I like talk about media they like. I also enjoy the way the awards process lets me and others share and receive recs, and celebrate the SFF community….

The Hugo Awards are trademarked by the World Science Fiction Society (“WSFS”). A mark must be enforced against violators who come within notice of the holder in order to remain effective. The Mark Protection Committee’s report to the Dublin 2019 business meeting contended that they already had to take action against someone selling a pin on Etsy:

Also in June, we were notified of a violation of our rocket trademark by a group marketing a pin to content creators on the website, Archive of Our Own. While the website itself was a finalist for a Hugo Award this year, the individual content creators are not finalists in the same way that authors edited by Best Editor are not considered finalists. The main issue, however, was that the seller used our marks and created a derivative work of our rocket shape without our permission. The right to control derivative works is one of the rights and responsibilities of a mark holder, and the seller transformed our rocket ship mark without permission. We informed the Dublin 2019 Worldcon committee of this issue because even issuing a cease-and-desist order might create a ruckus for the Worldcon among fans who are legitimately excited and happy to celebrate that AO3 is a Hugo finalist for the first time. Dublin 2019 declined to issue any guidance. If the creator withdrew this merchandise and created other material, we would then react to that based on the new merchandise. The MPC determined that it was important enough to protect our mark that it sent a cease-and-desist letter asking them to withdraw the design. We also pointed out that Worldcons issue their own pins to legitimate Hugo finalists. Toward the end of June, after getting no response from the seller, we filed an intellectual property infringement claim with Etsy, citing both the U.S. and EU registrations. Within days, Etsy had removed the item from their site.

The members of the Mark Protection Committee (“MPC”) at the time of the business meeting were Judy Bemis, Stephen Boucher, John Coxon, Joni Dashoff, Linda Deneroff, Paul Dormer, Donald E. Eastlake III, Michael Lee, Tim Illingworth, Dave McCarty, Randall Shepherd, Kevin Standlee, Mike Willmoth, and Ben Yalow. Three seats came up for election and two of the incumbents were returned, with Tim Illingworth being superseded by Jo Van Ekeren. So with one exception the membership remains the same as it was in Dublin.

Although the new statement appears gratuitous to some and pedantic to others, a likelier motive is to lay a foundation for WSFS to do something about trademark violations without going straight to court, which it lacks the budget to do. Consider what Kevin Standlee, who chaired the Mark Protection Committee until Dublin 2019, wrote on his blog on November 4:

If you are someone who insisted that nobody would ever make commercial or professional use of the Hugo Award registered service mark to claim that they were individually and personally Hugo Award winners on account of having contributed to An Archive of Our Own, you are flat-our wrong. It’s happening, and I’m not talking about “jokes” or “one-two-millionth of a Hugo Award winner” statements. The WSFS Mark Protection Committee is doing what it can about such things. Despite what some people seem to think, the first step in such cases is almost never LAWYER UP and FILE A LAWSUIT. But it uses up resources that are rather limited. I wish we didn’t have to do so. I wish that I hadn’t been right about people doing what I predicted they would do.

However, waving the threat of litigation at a group of fans collectively, almost none of whom started out with any desire to violate the trademarks, will not only offend many of them, it runs the risk of inciting people who feel unjustly persecuted to act out in precisely that way.

148 thoughts on “The Meaning of It All

  1. @Hampus

    For me, it is a question of wording. From my perspective, a clarification can be about the underlying reason of protecting the term, even if it isn’t explicitly stated. So I find it misleading to state that it isn’t about mark protection. It is, but not obviously so for those who have missed the run-up.

    Now you’re implying my analysis of the clarification is wrong because I ‘missed the run-up’, which is untrue and does come across as condescending. It implies ‘if she knew the context like I do, she would agree with my assessment’. Only I was, and I don’t.

    Leaving that aside though, the official Hugo website shouldn’t be sharing posts that can only be understood with prior knowledge of the context. This is the official site people go to if they want to learn about the Hugos! It should be easy to understand for everyone and it should be welcoming. It should do a better job of talking to the whole community, not just a fraction of it.

  2. @Hampus

    So I find it misleading to state that it isn’t about mark protection. It is, but not obviously so for those who have missed the run-up.

    WSFS messaging has consistently failed to talk about mark protection in official communications, though? Neither this statement nor the one they asked AO3 to issue in September mentioned commercial use of the trademark AT ALL. But somehow AO3 folks are supposed to understand and accept that the message “stop saying you’re a Hugo winner because you are not one” really means “commercial use of our service mark causes problems for us, so please adhere to the terms of our license, which you can find online here.” Those are… not equivalent statements, and it’s weirdly disingenuous to keep claiming that they are.

  3. Claire Rousseau:

    “You can’t have it both ways, though. You can’t say I’m in the wrong and also agree that the anon post was missing crucial info that would change it’s meaning.”

    Yes, I can. Because a post can be about some thing, the sole reason for why the post was made, without it being stated explicitly.

    Otherwise, I think my comments from 03:05 and 03:13 show that we are in total agreement that this is a issue of bad communication and that the mistakes from last time should have been learned from. Leaving out reasons for why the post was thought of as necessary just angers those who thought it was a thing from the past.

  4. @Claire Rousseau

    it is absolutely not a breach of the protected mark, because it’s not being used for profit.

    Whether or not it is being used for profit is not the standard for whether a breach of trademark has occurred.

  5. Jenny Hamilton:

    “WSFS messaging has consistently failed to talk about mark protection in official communications, though?”

    And that has been an obvious mistake.

  6. “Now you’re implying my analysis of the clarification is wrong because I ‘missed the run-up’”

    No. That is not something I am implying as I’m well aware that you didn’t miss it. And again, I am in full agreement that the post did a clear mistake in not giving context and explanation.

  7. bill:

    “Whether or not it is being used for profit is not the standard for whether a breach of trademark has occurred.”

    True. Loss of expected quality and dependability is also an issue. But that might already have been lost with They’d Rather Be Right.

  8. Before I delve into this, I want to be clear that I actively believe that AO3 deserved recognition from the Hugos. It wasn’t at the top of my ballot, but that was because the category was loaded with amazing stuff (probably the strongest Best Related shortlist that I’ve ever seen.) As I wrote in a blog post earlier this year, “The work of AO3 benefits the entire science fiction community and society as a whole.”

    That being said, the statement from the WSFS MPC seems pretty anodyne. It’s factual, to the point, and tries to offer constructive suggestions of accurate language that celebrates AO3 authors (I.E. “participant in the Hugo Award-Winning project Archive Of Our Own”).

    The response to the WSFS post has not reflected well on the AO3 community. I know it’s not the majority of the (enormous) AO3-affiliated world. To my eye, this twitter spasm of the week just looks like members of an umbrage-industrial complex looking for a reason to get indignant.

    Most of us already know that some AO3 activists are always going to be upset at the WSFS in general and at Kevin in specific. There’s a contingent of the fanfic community (sadly including a lot of people that I like and respect) has determined that WSFS folk are “The Enemy™”, and nothing that can be said will change that.

    It makes me sad, because as I said earlier AO3 as a whole has done enormous good for fandom and society as a whole. Their advocacy for fair use / fair dealing should be celebrated. Their work in building community is extraordinary. I was very happy when AO3 won the Hugo because it’s a great project. The tragedy is that this insistence by individual writers to troll the Hugo Awards organization is obscuring how cool AO3’s win is.

  9. Olav Rokne on December 19, 2019 at 12:59 pm said:

    The response to the WSFS post has not reflected well on the AO3 community. I know it’s not the majority of the (enormous) AO3-affiliated world. To my eye, this twitter spasm of the week just looks like members of an umbrage-industrial complex looking for a reason to get indignant.

    I don’t believe this is correct.
    It is manifest that people who have in many other circumstances acted in good faith in both communities and who have acted positively towards the Hugo Awards and in fan fiction endured a lot of emotional hurt during the previous eruption of this conflict.

    The WSFS post brought up the conflict again but not in a way that would enable any kind of resolution (even a harsh one). It does not appear to me to do anything more than act as kind of ‘let’s have this argument again’ statement. Which means for a lot of people having to face once again a fannish argument that they find personally exhausting and painful. I do not believe that was the INTENT of the WSFS post but I do believe that is the effect of the post.

    I don’t doubt there will be people online not arguing in good faith because that’s the nature of online but it is an error to be dismissive of people’s reactions and emotions because of the potential of bad-faith arguments.

    The number one issue in the previous argument was people not crediting authenticity to the emotions of others. That helped multiply misunderstandings and people talking at cross purposes.

  10. “I do not believe that was the INTENT of the WSFS post but I do believe that is the effect of the post.”

    To me it read like they had finally agreed on an appropriate and accurate way for AO3 enthusiasts to proclaim their pride in being a part of the Hugo-winning project. These things take time to craft and to debate.

  11. @Camestros Felapton
    “The number one issue in the previous argument was people not crediting authenticity to the emotions of others.”

    Unfortunately, whether or not a trademark is infringed is in no way dependent on the emotions of infringers (or the infringed). WSFS has an obligation to protect their marks, and given history to date, I don’t believe that there is any way they can do this with the assertiveness that trademark law encourages without some people getting upset.

    It might be that WSFS could do this in a way that is more accommodating of the emotions of the AO3 community, but realistically that is not their job. But they certainly cannot do it in a way that has no impact on AO3 emotions. And if they do try to accommodate, it may well weaken the legal position that they need to be taking.

  12. “The umbrage industrial complex looking for a reason to get indignant” had, for the most part, already moved on and almost universally regard this as a pointlessly hostile reignition of unnecessary wank — as clearly demonstrated by the number of responses on the Tweet saying, in essence, “Why the fuck is this an issue again? Now?

    That the answer to that question is something not even obliquely touched on in the post itself is the actual fucking problem here. For a bunch of people not at all obliquely attached to the writing professions, the WSFS has staggeringly vast and unambiguous issues when it comes to accurately and directly communicating in writing. Because, folks? From the perspective of a fanwriter that post a) came out of nowhere after months of wankless detente, b) contains some of the clunkiest verbiage imaginable (“no natural person” — who the fuck actually talks like this to other HUMAN BEINGS?), and c) manages to insult the efforts of the people who actually built and maintain Ao3, which did not, after all, spring Athenalike from the purely conceptual forehead of the abstract concept of an online fiction archive, but from the love and labor of hundreds of people over the course of a decade.

    If the issue is people continuing to attempt to monetize your marks, FUCKING SAY THAT. Because this entire clusterfuck could have been avoided by fucking saying that in the first place. Clarification requires actual clarity.

  13. Olav Rokne on December 19, 2019 at 1:19 pm said:

    “I do not believe that was the INTENT of the WSFS post but I do believe that is the effect of the post.”

    To me it read like they had finally agreed on an appropriate and accurate way for AO3 enthusiasts to proclaim their pride in being a part of the Hugo-winning project. These things take time to craft and to debate.

    I think you are correct.

  14. The need to demonstrate that the WSFS is protecting the Hugo Awards trademark can be done by contacting infringers directly to tell them to cease and desist. It doesn’t have to be done by publicly addressing an entire group, most of whose members have nothing to do with any perceived infringement.

  15. “To me it read like they had finally agreed on an appropriate and accurate way for AO3 enthusiasts to proclaim their pride in being a part of the Hugo-winning project.”

    The problem is that they seem overly concerned about the appropriate and accurate way in which Ao3 enthusiasts should be allowed to communicate their pride at being a part of the win to begin with. They are proposing a solution to a problem that the random people they are trying to control don’t even recognize. And they are “agreeing” among themselves but have yet to realize that they also need to find some way to get the people they want to control to also agree, and they have failed that remarkably.

    They are trying to move the ocean with a sieve, and when people point that out to them they are doubling down on it. That’s why so many people are rolling their eyes at them.

    “To my eye, this twitter spasm of the week just looks like members of an umbrage-industrial complex looking for a reason to get indignant.”

    If you looked a little closer you would see an org so indignant over the words, “We won a Hugo,” that it can’t seem to stop hitting itself.

  16. bill on December 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm said:

    @Camestros Felapton
    “The number one issue in the previous argument was people not crediting authenticity to the emotions of others.”

    Unfortunately, whether or not a trademark is infringed is in no way dependent on the emotions of infringers (or the infringed). WSFS has an obligation to protect their marks, and given history to date, I don’t believe that there is any way they can do this with the assertiveness that trademark law encourages without some people getting upset.

    The WSFS has already defended its mark in this matter. Re-igniting the argument is unlike to REDUCE the number of instances in which the mark is used incorrectly not will it increase the capacity of the WSFS to defend the mark in the future.

    If we are looking at it purely pragmatically and in terms of tactics of protecting IP, it was unwise.

  17. To my eye, this twitter spasm of the week just looks like members of an umbrage-industrial complex looking for a reason to get indignant.

    As someone whose tweets were included in this post and thus presumably a member of the perceived Twitter spasm… I really wasn’t looking for a reason to get indignant. Obviously I do not have a means of allowing you to look into my heart for truth and sincerity, but I’ll give it a go in writing: I truly wasn’t looking for a reason to get indignant! I was brought into WSFS and AO3 at roughly the same time by roughly the same people, so my experiences of both have happened in tandem. I don’t think the WSFS is the enemy because I have very little experience of WSFS people who aren’t also AO3 people.

    This is the second time since the Hugo ceremony that some subset of the WSFS and Hugo Awards people have put out a statement to correct the ways that AO3-affiliated people have celebrated the win. The conversation has been repeatedly initiated by them, not by me or anyone else who’s now responding negatively to it.

    Not once, on any official channel, have they said why this statement is necessary or why it’s being issued or why AO3 is being specifically singled out. Is it because they’ve encountered service mark problems? I DUNNO. The words “service mark” have never come up! I am left to guess their motives!

    To your point that it’s an anodyne and factual statement — I mean, sure, but the context in which it’s being issued also matters. They could have issued a series of equally anodyne and factual statements in September and December of this year to say “Winners of the Best Novel award should keep in mind that the novel, and not the author, won the prize. The author should not describe herself as Hugo Award winning” or whatever. That would be anodyne and factual, but we’d all still be like “the hell? why are they having a go at Mary Robinette Kowal?”

    But we agree that AO3’s win is neat! Yay AO3!

  18. Jenny Hamilton on December 19, 2019 at 1:51 pm said:
    But we agree that AO3’s win is neat! Yay AO3!

    This is the key point, and the one thing we should all be reiterating.

    Other than that, I’m tapping out of the debate.

  19. A Tired AO3er:

    Here I thought I was being polite if a bit passionate/strong in my language.

    If perception is reality, as you insist, you were rude.

  20. rcade: The need to demonstrate that the WSFS is protecting the Hugo Awards trademark can be done by contacting infringers directly to tell them to cease and desist. It doesn’t have to be done by publicly addressing an entire group, most of whose members have nothing to do with any perceived infringement.

    On the contrary: without an official public statement as to whether individual AO3 members can call themselves Hugo Award Winners, it makes it difficult to send individual messages to people telling them this, without being able to point to an authoritative source for that stance. WSFS has now published an authoritative source which they can use in their requests for people to stop doing this.

    I note that in some cases, such as where people are doing this on LinkedIn, there may be no visible contact information for these people, and the fact that this statement has now been spread far and wide on social media is another way to get the information to them.

    It’s obvious that WSFS is overlooking the joking (and not-so-joking) Twitter claims of being a Hugo Award Winner, because if anyone had been sent a C&D notice by WSFS, we’d have all immediately seen the aggrieved complaints about it. But WSFS cannot say publicly that they are willing to overlook this joking usage, because that weakens their case that they are defending their marks.

    The AO3 members who keep insisting that this statement is about the people doing it on Twitter are doing so because it gives them an excuse to be indignant and outraged. It’s obvious that that is not what this statement is about.

  21. Jenny Hamilton: They could have issued a series of equally anodyne and factual statements in September and December of this year to say “Winners of the Best Novel award should keep in mind that the novel, and not the author, won the prize. The author should not describe herself as Hugo Award winning” or whatever. That would be anodyne and factual, but we’d all still be like “the hell? why are they having a go at Mary Robinette Kowal?”

    They wouldn’t issue such a statement because the authors of Hugo Award-winning novels are entitled to call themselves Hugo Award Winners. Their fiction won a Hugo Award; they as the author of that fiction are Hugo Award Winners. It isn’t the fiction on AO3 which won the Hugo Award (in, as the statement points out, a category which recognizes things which aren’t fiction), thus the individual authors of the fiction on AO3 are not Hugo Award Winners.

    And despite all of the AO3 members claiming that they don’t need that explained to them, obviously there are plenty who do need it explained to them, because they keep whipping out the excuse that WSFS is not telling the authors of Hugo Award-Winning novels that they aren’t allowed to call themselves Hugo Award Winners.

  22. @Camestros Felapton: OK, my initial comment was badly worded. I suppose then that I should have just said that quite a few people should consider talking to a mental health professional. Is that better?

  23. @M Lin

    If you looked a little closer you would see an org so indignant over the words, “We won a Hugo,” that it can’t seem to stop hitting itself.

    “We won a Hugo” is not an issue. It’s “I won a Hugo for my fanfic” or “This piece of fanfic won a Hugo” that’s the issue. And that takes away from the fact that the entire community’s project won the Hugo.

  24. And that takes away from the fact that the entire community’s project won the Hugo.

    Lolllllll, no, no it doesn’t. We’re all aware that the community’s project won the Hugo – though some of us are still contending that without the fic there wouldn’t be a community project, so, like, yanno.

    Regardless, if that statement had been predicated by wording along the lines of “due to several incidences of individuals claiming to be Hugo award winners in a professional or networking capability, we feel we must clarify that we will protect our mark against such incursions, etc etc” and then at the end said “we welcome AO3 members to identify themselves as XXXX should they so choose” none of this would be heating up again. We’d get that. As it is, it just reads as a very belated realization that someone, somewhere, still has “hugo award winner” in their twitter bio and they must be stopped!

  25. For a bunch of people not at all obliquely attached to the writing professions, the WSFS

    Just quickly picking this bit out: Not so much. The WSFS is the World Science Fiction Society: an organisation of fans. Some fans are writers, sure, and certainly some pros are quite famously associated, but it’s a less complete connection than this suggests. Most fans are… Fans. With whatever writing and communication skills that come naturally to them.

    I’m wondering if it’s been mixed up with SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) again? Happens quite a lot.

  26. For the record and speaking only personally for myself, an individual natural person, not for any group, corporation, committee, or other entity of any sort of which I may be a member or associate: while I continue to be a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee, I am not the Chair of the Committee nor of any of its subcommittees. I declined to stand for re-election as Chair this term, as I have other commitments that are taking an increasing amount of my time. I did stand for re-election as an ordinary committee member and was returned for another term. This is not a secret.

    Also, the membership of the WSFS MPC is not a secret, either, nor is anything about its legal structure or organization including how to become a member of that committee, which is set out in the WSFS Constitution.

    Anything that I personally write that is published on the Hugo Awards web site is published under my own name. The statement in question was published at the request of the WSFS MPC, which is why it was published the way it was. The subcommittee that manages the WSFS web sites works under the direction of the MPC. Given that there has been some confusion about this, I expect that there may be a small addition to the published statement to make explicit that it’s a statement from the MPC, not from any individual person or from a Worldcon committee (the MPC is a committee of WSFS, not a Worldcon committee), and that it is regarding unauthorized commercial use of WSFS service marks.

    Hint: JJ is right about non-commercial use such as joking/sarcastic/mean-spirited Twitter posts.

  27. @Jeff Jones: As someone who works in the mental health field – please, no. People are perfectly capable of drawing wildly opposing conclusions from the same set of facts according to their own emotional attachments to their preferred conclusions without having a formal psychiatric diagnosis.

  28. Their fiction won a Hugo Award; they as the author of that fiction are Hugo Award Winners. It isn’t the fiction on AO3 which won the Hugo Award (in, as the statement points out, a category which recognizes things which aren’t fiction), thus the individual authors of the fiction on AO3 are not Hugo Award Winners.

    So, the coders and tag wranglers–the people who decided how the archive was shaped and what it would show–are the “authors” of the 2019 BRW?

    Of course, the fic authors have a hand in that too–they both use tags and create new ones. Submitting to the archive isn’t just a matter of writing fic, but also of categorizing metadata. Tag wranglers don’t create tags; they only organize the ones the authors submit.

  29. @Elf
    It’s my understanding that AO3 was nominated as a whole for the structure, including the tagging and the search capabilities.

  30. Thank you for the clarification, Kevin.

    EDIT: (I meant the clarification in your comments here)

  31. Kevin Standlee: I have corrected the post to show that you were chair of the MPC through Dublin 2019.

  32. Can we not talk about transformative works fandom peeps like they’re making shit up when they say that people object/ed to twitter/tumblr jokes? Because we had two whole threads of people insisting that the jokes were absolutely a/the main/most frequent problem. Like, it’s not weird to make the leap from people repeatedly and forcefully telling you something is a huge problem – especially when precisely zero official communication has contradicted it – to thinking that’s what everyone’s upset about.

    The very message that prompted this renewal of discussion, for example, talks quite a bit about what AO3 members are allowed to call themselves and not at all about people using the Hugo name for commercial gain. The communication has not been effective. Which, as someone with ties to both transformative works fandom and (more recently) WSFS, is really frustrating.

    If anyone knows if anyone on the committee has transformative works fandom experience, I’d appreciate the heads up (anonymised is fine, just a yes/no/don’t know would work great, I don’t want anyone outed) – most people use pseudonyms so a list of meatspace names isn’t very informative for that purpose.

  33. Peggy Saves Herself: …Regardless, if that statement had been predicated by wording along the lines of “due to several incidences of individuals claiming to be Hugo award winners in a professional or networking capability, we feel we must clarify that we will protect our mark against such incursions, etc etc” and then at the end said “we welcome AO3 members to identify themselves as XXXX should they so choose” none of this would be heating up again….

    I think that information should have been part of the statement because it would have made it more transparent and useful. Despite that I feel it would be unrealistic to think that any mention of the policy on The Hugo Awards site, no matter how well-crafted, would not be answered by some angry tweets, because this is a very high-temperature subject at the moment.

  34. JJ, you keep using iterations of the word “obvious” and either the word doesn’t mean what you think it means or you’ve decided to demonstrate one of the gnarlier roots of a painful, unpleasant disconnect.

    Because, no, clearly not much is obvious and at this point that includes the good faith intentions of the MPC. I mean, I believe the intentions of the MPC are good, but that’s not actually obvious and I have to fall back on my own personal experience with the members of the committee. I’m not sure how many AO3 members have that experience.

    I noped out of not only the argument but online fan spaces about six days into it the last time this came up. I do not write or participate in fanfic, so it’s not that my ox was being gored, but it was and is painful to see people of good will talking past one another and acting as if their points should be obvious if only people with possibly opposing points weren’t stupid, recalcitrant or in some other way acting in bad faith.

    It’s not obvious. None of it is obvious. It’s knotty, fraught with feelings, protection of feelings and of territory, and half a hundred other things. But nothing is obvious.

  35. Meredith:

    “Because we had two whole threads of people insisting that the jokes were absolutely a/the main/most frequent problem.”

    I have absolutely no memory of this. I only remember two threads in all and in them it was stated again and again that the joking wasn’t the problem.

  36. @jayn: The more I observe people, the more I think that the psychiatric definitions are way too narrow.

  37. @Hampus
    There were two threads and some people were complaining about the jokes, and some people were trying to tell AO3 people that they weren’t really [fill in blank], even when they’re members of Worldcon.
    There was a lot of online yelling, on both sides, because some people didn’t seem to pay attention to what was being said, and preferred to read their own meanings into the comments of others.

    I’ve been a member of Worldcon several times, and I’ve also donated money to AO3, because I enjoy a number of the works they host, though I’m not a member. (If people insist on treating it as though it’s not an important part of fannish activities and groups, I will join.)

  38. @Peggy Saves Herself

    Well, I think one person taking credit for themselves when an entire community was honored with the award is taking away from something. Yes, we are aware it was for the project as a whole, but not everyone who comes across these claims will be.

  39. @Mike Glyer

    I think you’re absolutely right that there’d still have been some upset, since the bad blood’s already there (arguably was there before the first time around), but there could easily have been less upset.

    I’m quite frustrated that absolutely none of the information and brainstorming that happened the last time around was, judging by the result, used to inform the writing of this statement. I don’t particularly enjoy being stuck in the middle between my two chosen forms of fandom.

    @Hampus

    You can have a different memory. It doesn’t change mine, or the quotes I can see in my notes from the comments I didn’t post at the time. (They were very angry comments. I try not to post very angry comments.)

    ETA: Some Filers (and AO3ers, actually, and ofc, us poor bastards who are both) did try and argue the jokes weren’t the problem, somewhat hampered by the people enthusiastically insisting that the jokes were absolutely a (big) problem. P J Evans is correct.

  40. Elf: So, the coders and tag wranglers–the people who decided how the archive was shaped and what it would show–are the “authors” of the 2019 BRW? Of course, the fic authors have a hand in that too–they both use tags and create new ones. Submitting to the archive isn’t just a matter of writing fic, but also of categorizing metadata. Tag wranglers don’t create tags; they only organize the ones the authors submit.

    Continuing to reach for false equivalencies is not helping your case any. Editors of Hugo Award-Winning Novels don’t get to call themselves “Hugo Award-Winning Editors”, they get to call themselves “Editor of a Hugo Award-Winning Novel”.

    OTW Board Members were given the option to credit some actual human beings as part of their nomination, and they chose not to. You should take up your grievance with them.

  41. Meredith: it’s not weird to make the leap from people repeatedly and forcefully telling you something is a huge problem – especially when precisely zero official communication has contradicted it – to thinking that’s what everyone’s upset about.

    In the last 9 months, exactly zero (0) AO3 members on Twitter have received a Cease-and-Desist request from WSFS (if anyone had, I’m sure that we’d have all heard about it.)

    At this point, it seems to me that the latest outrage by AO3 members on Twitter is about maintaining a persecution narrative, not about any actual persecution.

    While I can appreciate a good PR campaign as much as the next person, my sympathy for AO3 members stops at the point where they’re using WSFS as the villain in their persecution narrative. I will point out that there was an AO3 member who pretended to agree to not produce mark-infringing pins, and then said “fuck you” and produced the pins anyway — and more than 240 AO3 members bought them. So I’m really not sympathetic to the persecution claims at this point.

  42. I will point out that there was an AO3 member who pretended to agree to not produce mark-infringing pins, and then said “fuck you” and produced the pins anyway — and more than 240 AO3 members bought them.

    Again, things like this should’ve been in today’s statement. It’s a clear case of copyright infringement that nobody can argue against.

  43. While we’re talking AO3, this article was just published on IO9 about transformative works. About AO3 a bit down.

  44. P J Evans:

    “If people insist on treating it as though it’s not an important part of fannish activities and groups, I will join.”

    If AO3 hadn’t been important, it wouldn’t have won a Hugo. You’d think the win would have put an end to that discussion.

  45. @JJ

    240 AO3 users out of over a million? Surely a sign of concerted majority action that all other members should be held responsible for, and all their grievances and emotions ignored as a result. Definitely not a case that should’ve been used as an example of What We Mean in the official communications, since that couldn’t possibly have clarified things.

    If I recall correctly, you were one of the people most insistently pushing the idea that Twitter Jokes are A Big Problem that will Hurt The Hugos in the previous threads. You can’t then turn around and complain when people think things are about Twitter Jokes being A Big Problem – not when none of the official communications contradict it, and in fact seem designed to talk about it. Neither this statement nor the previous one mentions anything about profiting from anything. You can’t reasonably expect transformative works fen with no ties to WSFS to extend benefit of the doubt and creative reinterpretation until they end up with a meaning different from what’s in the actual words in front of their faces.

    Not trying to profit off stuff is not generally a difficult concept for transformative works fen, but it is not the one that’s been presented to them. (The AO3 itself explicitly bans any form of trying to make money on the website! No tips, no commissions, no Patreons, no Kickstarters, nothing is allowed, link or suggestion! It’s a foundational rule of transformative works fandom!)

    You know very well that I’m very fond of you in particular and others on File770 and of the Hugos, and how much I appreciate your support for my happiness over the win, so when I tell you that you’ve (along with a couple of others) made me want to contrarily declare my Hugo Winnership (I fought down the urge. mostly. i didn’t even like those jokes, dammit.) on more than one occasion during this awful months-long discussion/simmering fight I hope you’ll listen and consider how transformative works fen who don’t know you are likely to have seen your arguments on this topic.

    Fen coming from a part of fandom which has generally been shunned and abused even by those who should’ve been their allies in fannishness, fen who have every right to claim a history of persecution and whose experiences of such naturally colour their reactions, and fen who finally thought we were accepted and wanted – celebrated! – only to be met with what looked very much like No Wait You’re Celebrating Wrong, Bad Fans, Bad rather than Please Just Don’t Try To Profit Off It. It’s not weird or difficult to understand that that’s what stuck in people’s minds, or that it upset people an awful lot. I understood what the arguments really were (I think I spent most of that discussion alternately fruitlessly protesting that hiveminds aren’t a thing (which they’re not!! So if we could all just not!!! I will not have to bite anyone’s head off and/or send Mike and Cam to their doorsteps to perform interpretative dance!!!! It would be nice!!!!!) and trying to correct misunderstandings based on cultural differences to both sides) and where people were coming from, and liked everyone involved, and it sure upset me.

  46. I don’t know where that extra syllable keeps coming from every time I try to type “interpretive dance” but I’m getting real tired of my fingers’ extremely selective stutter. :p

  47. Meredith: when none of the official communications contradict it, and in fact seem designed to talk about it. Neither this statement nor the previous one mentions anything about profiting from anything. You can’t reasonably expect transformative works fen with no ties to WSFS to extend benefit of the doubt and creative reinterpretation until they end up with a meaning different from what’s in the actual words in front of their faces.

    WSFS not ever mentioning Twitter does not equal “designed to talk about it”. The “actual words in front of their faces” from WSFS say nothing about Twitter. They’ve decided for themselves that that is what the words mean.

    No one has ever said “You’re not allowed to have fun with the Hugo nomination/win!” yet that is what AO3 members have repeatedly claimed. No one has ever* said that AO3 members aren’t good enough or aren’t important or aren’t “worthy”, yet that is what AO3 members have repeatedly claimed. All that’s been said is that according to how the Hugo Awards work, contributors to a Hugo Award-Winning project do not get to call themselves Hugo Award Winners, just as contributors to a Hugo Award-Winning nonfiction anthology do not get to call themselves Hugo Award Winners, just as contributors to a Hugo Award-Winning fanzine do not get to call themselves Hugo Award Winners.

    So yes, I can reasonably expect transformative works fen not to invent things out of whole cloth based on their vague sense that they are somehow being persecuted — because that is very much not “the actual words in front of their faces”.

    *to the best of my knowledge

  48. @Meredith
    I’d like to have a dollar for every time I’ve typed “impeachement” in the last year. My fingers aren’t always typing what my brain wants.

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